By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano, OFW Journalism Consortium
PASIG CITY – A real-time crash course in cash management still grips Filipinos in Japan as the world’s second-largest economy attempts to clamber out of recession.
“They [Filipinos] have to start saving or investing rather than just spending” in these times of crisis, sociologist Ma. Rosario Piquero-Ballescas of Toyo University in Bunkyo-ku district said.
Piquero-Ballescas’s advice is based on her observation that the drop in Japan’s gross domestic product last year to -5% hit hard Filipinos there and some lessons should be culled for future similar occurrence.
Some Filipinos in Japan landed on lower-paying jobs after getting laid off in some companies, she said sans citing exact figures.
It has led many of them to rethink their lifestyles in Japan, Piquero-Ballescas added.
The crises made many Filipinos in Japan reflect that “the yen does not last forever,” Ballescas told the OFW Journalism Consortium via email, on a day that Y100 in the Philippine dealing system is worth P48.61, higher than the P45.05-US$1 exchange rate.
The yen continued to weaken against the peso, from an average P50.99-Y100 last year to P48.61 a day after the May 10 national elections.
The yen-peso exchange rate “was tremendously more favorable for many months” last year, so “a lot of Filipinos in Japan took advantage of this,” Ballescas said, explaining the increase in remittance.
Last year, Filipinos in Japan sent home US$773.561 million in remittances or 34.49% more than the US$575.181 million in 2008.
“They may find themselves without jobs or income soon, so they are now doing their best to save whatever they can and send money home as investments, in the event of [an] early return to the Philippines,” Ballescas said in her reply to questions sent by email.
But while the crisis may have prompted an increase in remittance, it was one of the factors that dampened the flow of foreign workers, according to Junichi Akashi of the University of Tsukuba.
Akashi told fellow academics at a policy forum recently that the global economic crisis has affected migrant workers in Japan “unevenly”.
Citing data from Japan’s Immigration Control Bureau, Akashi said there was a noticeable drop in the number of foreigners who entered the country under 2 types of working visas —foreign trainees and technical interns.
The same downward trend was seen for Filipinos who entered in 2009 as foreign trainees and technical interns.
A total of 50,064 foreign trainees entered Japan in 2009, a drop from the 68,150 who entered a year ago. Filipinos as foreign trainees numbered to 2,661 in 2009, lower than the 3,213 in 2008.
Meanwhile, from April 2009 to February this year, 52,133 foreigners shifted to Japan’s technical internship program, lower than the 63,747 the program accepted in 2008.
Filipinos make up 4,004 of the technical interns, but the number is lower than the 5,134 Filipinos who were registered as technical interns in 2008.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) also registered a lower number of Filipinos who went to Japan as permanent residents or emigrants in 2009, with 5,278.
The number was lower than the 7,682 registered emigrants to Japan in 2008 and the 8,806 registered in 2007.
Meanwhile, the number of Filipinos who married spouses from Japan also dropped in 2009 with 4,142 in 2008 versus the 6,114 in 2007.
The decline was noticeable since the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) took effect last year.
The JPEPA opened Japan to nurses and caregivers from the Philippines, with the first batch included in the total 6,418 deployed last year.
On May 9, the Philippines sent its second batch of 116 nurses and caregivers under the agreement.
Akashi observes that the crisis that hit Japan led to a decreasing number of foreign trainees, especially those in the construction and machinery/metallurgical industries.
Male foreign trainees were affected “to a greater degree,” Akashi said.
Another factor that contributed to the decline of deployment of Filipinos to Japan is the set of immigration rules promulgated in 2005.
From 42,633 that year, the number of OFWs going to Japan dropped to 8,867 in 2007 and 6,555 a year later.
Piquero-Ballescas can only recommend that compatriots take stock of their future in the land of the rising sun. OFW Journalism Consortium